The fourth, and biggest, Budweiser Made in America festival is upon us.
Biggest in that, for the first time, the Jay Z-curated, Beyoncé-headlined two-day music festival has sold out in advance and this year will bring a record 70,000 music fans per day to an expanded site on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. (The entrance to the fenced-in site is now on 21st, rather than 22d Street, where it had been in years past.)
Also biggest in that there are more bands. This year, a fifth stage, called Tidal, has been added, branded as such to promote Jay Z's Spotify- and Apple Music-competing music service, which, not surprisingly, has exclusive rights to live stream the event. (Go to Tidal.com for details.)
The 10 up-and-coming acts playing on the Tidal stage - starting Saturday with Memphis garage-rock duo Bass Drum of Death - bring the total number of scheduled Made in America acts to 62.
Nobody's going to see all of them. Only the first and last acts of each day will have the festival entirely to themselves. On Saturday, Made in America 2015 kicks off with Detroit songwriter Mayaeni, and on Sunday, it begins with Brooklyn rapper Remy Banks.
On Saturday evening, the festival gets distilled down to electronic dance music headliner Bassnectar on the Liberty stage, followed by Beyoncé, who takes her rightful place as Made in America's brightest star in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the fest's main Rocky stage for the second time in three years. On Sunday, that one-two punch will be repeated with Swedish duo Axwell/Ingrosso followed by dirty-minded Canadian alt-R&B-gone-pop star the Weeknd.
Between bookends, there are choices to be made. The mark of a potentially great music festival is a multiple-stage setup that makes you wish to be cloned like Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black, thereby eliminating any fear of missing out.
The time where I'd most appreciate those powers would be right around 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
At that point, Brooklyn electro indie duo Tanlines will be midway though on the Tidal stage. Meanwhile, Los Angeles producer DJ Mustard, whose real name is Dijon McFarlane, will hold down the EDM Freedom stage.
Simultaneously, intense Philadelphia rockers Strand of Oaks will be gearing up on the Skate stage. And North Philadelphia street rapper Meek Mill will be performing within his hometown's city limits for the first time since his chart-topping album Dreams Worth More Than Money and well-publicized feud with Canadian rapper Drake (although he did hit up Camden last month with girlfriend Nicki Minaj as the headliner).
What to do, what to do?
What follows is a strategic guide to how to make one's way through the multiple options. I'm penciling it in for myself, while retaining the right to change plans at any given moment. Festivals, after all, aren't so much about following a preset plan, drifting from stage to stage, as they are about making room to be surprised along the way.
For early arrivals, Mayaeni is worth a look. The singer signed to Jay Z's Roc Nation, whose father played guitar for disco diva Sylvester, does a rocked-out cover of A$AP Rocky's "L$D."
Action on the main stage, or the Rocky stage as it's called, begins with the Struts, the glammy Brit rockers fronted by Luke Spiller. From there, I'll head to the Freedom stage for Giraffage, the stage name for crafty Taiwanese American producer Charlie Yin, at 2:15 p.m.
Earl Sweatshirt, the poet-rapper of the Odd Future collective, who is also playing Saturday night at the TLA, is on the Liberty stage. When Sweatshirt finishes at 3:15 p.m., hustle over to the main stage for Chicago rapper Vic Mensa.
That takes us to the Francis Quinlan-fronted Philadelphia indie folk-rock band Hop Along on the Skate stage. When Hop Along's set ends at 4:45 p.m., head back to the main stage because old-school hip-hop comes next with De La Soul. When they wrap up, head back to the Skate Stage for Philly's Waxahatchee, who will give Made in America a more indie flavor starting at 5:15 p.m.
I'm thinking I'll give a chance to Nick Jonas, to see how the boy-band-singer-gone-solo goes over with the festival crowd, before trying to squeeze in a minute of either DJ Mustard (6:20 at the Freedom stage) or Tanlines (6:15 at the Tidal stage). Then I'll head over to see whether Meek Mill (6:30 at the main stage) has concocted a decent Drake diss, or brought along his beloved Nicki Minaj.
That takes us into the meat of the action: maybe adult-alternative rockers Death Cab For Cutie at 7:30 at the Liberty stage, or Philly rap crew Ground Up, who start 15 minutes later at the Skate stage.
Heading up the headliner, there's a choice between Pacific Northwest alt-rockers Modest Mouse on the main stage and Brit DJ-producer Duke Dumont on the Freedom stage.
The techno cacophony of Bassnectar on the Liberty stage will then give way to . . .
. . . our Beyoncé moment. It would be nice if, this year, it included a Jay Z "Crazy in Love" cameo. (How about it, Hov?)
Ready for more? As you try to put behind you all the mistakes of Day One - too many Bud tallboys, not enough water - take solace in knowing that Sunday is not as long of a day. Whereas Beyoncé's Saturday night set starts at 10:30 p.m., Abel Tesfaye a.k.a. The Weeknd begins an hour earlier.
Although the Sunday lineup is not as strong, there are early-bird attractions. North Jersey-raised viral-YouTube sensation Halsey - real name: Ashley Frangipane - hits the main stage.
I'll be sorry if I don't find a way to see some of both food-obsessed rapper Action Bronson, playing the main stage, and Jidenna - the Janelle Monáe protégé with the "Classic Man" hit - at the same time at the Tidal stage. That probably means missing Philadelphia electro duo Marian Hill, on at 2:45 on the Skate stage.
That doesn't shut Philly out entirely, though: Made in America should answer the question "What's up with Santigold?" Philly's pop-pastiche artiste Santi White has not been heard from much since 2012's Master of My Make Believe. She's on the Liberty stage at the same time the Nashville four-piece Bully, fronted by Alicia Bognanno, plays the Tidal stage, so split the difference.
Sorry, Zoë Kravitz's band Lolawolf, on the Skate stage, draws the short straw.
Late afternoon means Metric, the Emily Haines-led Canadian rock band who played Made in America last year in Los Angeles (the Left Coast's alleged cultural capital couldn't support a Labor Day weekend music festival of its own). The rap alternative is Post Malone, with a breakout hit whose title, "White Iverson," speaks to his ambitions.
Dinner will be had with a hip-hop soundtrack. Atlanta auto-tune rapper Future at the Liberty stage is immediately followed by Ariana Grande's ex-boyfriend Big Sean on the main stage.
Stick around after Big Sean for J. Cole. The North Carolina rapper and singer played the festival last year on the heels of releasing "Be Free," his moving reaction song to the death of Ferguson, Mo., teenager Michael Brown.
That brings us close to the finish line. Are you still with me?
All that's left is to shake your glow stick at Axwell/\Ingrosso at the Liberty Stage.
Finish out the weekend with the Weeknd. Cozy up to your baby as he sings his 50 Shades of Grey hit "Can't Feel My Face." And that will bring the long Made in America 2015 weekend to a close.